Trackside Tuesday: The Calm Before the Storm

04/16/2013 @ 3:14 pm, by Scott Jones27 COMMENTS


The second half of the 2012 MotoGP season generated a tale of sound and fury: Casey Stoner’s retirement, Valentino Rossi’s pending return to Yamaha, Dani Pedrosa’s late season charge to threaten for the premier-class title, and the coming of Marc Marquez to Repsol Honda, all seemed to add up to a 2013 that would make for one of the most interesting MotoGP seasons of the modern era.

But as the storm raged around him, Jorge Lorenzo got quietly down the the business of being a fast, and perhaps more importantly, consistent, points claiming machine, that fended off a revitalized Pedrosa and claimed the 2012 crown.

In Qatar, as we waited to see how Rossi would respond on the Yamaha, how Marquez would fare in the deep water, and if Dani could maintain his pace and determination from 2012, there didn’t seem much attention left for the new world champ as he began his title defense.

But as the photographers crowded around the left side of the Yamaha garage, on the right side the rider and team went steadily about their business. In an atmosphere difficult both for the track conditions and for the distractions generated by Rossi and Marquez, Lorenzo oozed quiet confidence.

I never saw a sign that he was overly concerned by his former and current teammate. He seemed content to rely on his greater experience and proven speed as he faced the pending threat of Marquez. He seemed somehow to have matured, to have grown-up, in the off-season.

One journalist said to me that if Lorenzo could pull off the oh-so-difficult defense of his 2012 title, and do so on the remarkable 2013 grid, it would be an epic world championship and one that would be difficult to top in the future.

But another perspective is this: if Lorenzo stays healthy and rides at his ability all season, and if someone manages to beat him to the 2013 title, that also will be a world championship of remarkable accomplishment. Much has been written of what Lorenzo has to deal with in 2013, but Rossi, Pedrosa, and Marquez may have the greatest challenge of all.

Scott Jones is a professional photographer who covers MotoGP and WSBK for racing industry clients as well as racing websites and publications in the U.S. and Europe. His online archive is available at Photo.GP, and you can find him on his blogTwitter, & Facebook.

All images posted, shared, or sent for editorial use or review are registered for full copyright protection at the Library of Congress.

Photos: © 2013 Scott Jones / Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved

  • Chaz Michael Michaels

    Agree totally. Lorenzo has quietly become clinical and fantastic to such a degree that it’s becoming predictable and unremarkable.

    However, I do think this-the loss of Stoner from the Grid is a shame because there could have been some epic Stoner/Lorenzo battles this year.

    This season will remind me of the first full Formula 1 season without Senna or the first NBA season without Jordan (after his first retirement).

    As dominant as Lorenzo is something deep in my brain says Stoner is better. And that’s unfair. So, just another reason to dislike Stoner. Sorry mate.

  • JW

    Rossi and Marc both have the talent to stir up the comfort Loernzo is enjoying at the top. I believe it will shake down this weekend.. Marques held off a bit at the last race out of respect and the requirement to start the season off without any drama, in Texas the drama and true colors will slap us all in the face..

  • Much has been written of what Lorenzo has to deal with in 2013, but Rossi, Pedrosa, and Marquez may have the greatest challenge of all. Couldn’t have said it better my self, but would like to add just one more thought Cal Crutchlow I believe will get in there and mix it up a bit and this will make for one hell of a fight.

  • Westward


    Stoner is not even comparable to Senna or Jordan. Those two were the known as the best at what they did, not just one of. Rossi is more of a direct comparison.

    Stoner is interesting in that, both his titles came as the machine underneath them changed. But also both times he was unable to defend his titles.

    As for Lorenzo, both his titles came as a result of the favourites to win those seasons suffered injuries that kept them out of multiple races. Lorenzo is the champion of attrition.

    In 2010, even with a damaged shoulder and a mending leg, Rossi bested Lorenzo at Motegi and Sepang. In 2012, Pedrosa dominated Jorge. If Dani had his surgery done correctly the first time during the off season, the title would have gone differently.

    Yes, Stoner is better than Lorenzo. Pedrosa is only better when the bike is better, but on equal machinery I believe Lorenzo to be better to Pedrosa.

    As for Marquez, Lorenzo’s experience will only hold off the rookies talent for so long. Coupled with a more powerful bike, Marquez is better than Pedrosa and a more ambition version of Stoner. Basically nightmare for Lorenzo.

    Both Rossi and Marquez will improve as the season draws to its natural conclusion. If Rossi and Marquez continue to grace the rostrum, they may very well dominate Lorenzo in the second half of the season, with one of them stealing the title in spectacular fashion…

    And what if Lorenzo finishes in third at seasons end, then what ? How will he be judged in retrospect…

    Lorenzo, the Champion of Attrition….

    No matter what he does, Rossi and Marquez will upstage him. It will either be the “Return of the King,” or “The Unexpected Journey,” that leads to a new champion.

  • Gutterslob

    While it’s true that Lorenzo can’t be mentioned in the same sentence as Senna or Jordan (or even Rossi) – he still needs some totally spectacular moments, like Senna at Donnington in the wet, Jordan’s “Flu Game” or Rossi’s Laguna Seca battle against Stoner – I think calling him a “Champion of Attrition” is doing him a bit of a disservice, Westward.

    Both the cases you mentioned, Lorenzo just did the bare minimum required of him without taking necessary risks since he had the points gap, sort of like how Alain Prost would do things. Last I checked, Prost ranked quite highly among the all time greats (even won more world titles than Senna) as well. Yes, you can argue that Rossi was injured in 2010, but some put that injury down to him just pushing too hard trying to out-qualify Lorenzo. We’ll never know.

    Speculation is all arm-chair racers like us will ever have, sadly. I’m just hoping for a close championship with at least five (don’t forget Cal) different race winners.

  • StevenK

    @Chaz, your line saying Stoner is the best is one I fully agree with. I feel the championship is a bit subdued without, even with all the Rossi/Marquez hype.

    @Westward, Lorenze a champion of attrition??? Really, do you watch a different series to all of us. Lorenzo in almost all of his race wins has dominated the competition, showing amazing race craft. He definately deserves every win he has gotten.

    @Gutterslob, I think the spectacular moment for Lorenzo that you might need reminding of is his race where he was fairing bashing with Rossi in 2010. He may not have beaten him but I think he proved to everyone that he is not a walk-over.

    BTW, in that Japanese 2010 race Stoner smashed them all on the Ducati, but that was probably a fluke too.

  • smiler

    Let’s wait until the end of this weekend. it is a levelish playing field with a new track and one race already conducted. Merguez is up to speed, Rossi back in and fast, Dani back to normal and Lorenzo in the last race under no pressure. The weather will also likely be good.
    After this weekend the hot air of this week will fortunately be substituted for facts.

  • Chaz Michael Michaels

    I never said Stoner was from the same level of greatness as Jordan or Senna. Sheesh. I’m making a direct comparision to the season after somebody great leaves the sport. …you get what I mean, right?

    I’m saying the champion from this season, for me deep down, will be a bit de-valued because there is no Stoner and I’m saying that it bums me out because this year’s champion will be great. Lorenzo IS great and what he is doing so far this year (only 1 race down, I know), is amazing. He totally, quietly, confidently smoked everyone.–but, face it, no matter what Lorenzo does this year something in the back of your mind will say “there’s no Stoner.”

    …you can’t take the 1995 Formula 1 champion and think “wow, greatest driver in the world.”–because there was no Senna.

    …and you can’t look at the Houston Rockets back-to-back championships and think “greatest team”–because they did it during the Jordan-less (in his prime btw) years.

  • FernandoARG

    Beg to differ, no champion this year will be less because Stoner is gone, did he win last year? Oh right he didn’t, Lorenzo win WITH Stoner still there, they hate Rossi fanboys, some people idolize Stoner, sure he was good, but at the end of the day he’s still a guy with 2 tittles that is retired at an early age and crumbled under pressure, Lorenzo is a better rider than Stoner, younger, with the same amount of championships, still racing. Marc Marquez is gonna make sure that in 5 years nobody will care about Stoner. So will Lorenzo.

  • Silly

    @Westward you sir are an idiot

  • CTK

    Lorenzo has that little bit more talent but hes boring as hell to watch both on and off the grid. I don’t care if he wins or loses. To me he is only relevant in that he has set the bar for the likes of everyone else to beat. I don’t have anything against him but on the flip side there is no joy in his wins. He has no story

  • Westward

    That 2010 race @ Motegi, I believe had Lorenzo crying to Lin Jarvis that Rossi was ruining championship…

    I stand firmly by the comment that Lorenzo is the champion of attrition. Both season he won, he was not the favoured to win, and the one that was was injured and absent a few races.

    Rossi leg injury in 2010 was not nearly as deleterious as the shoulder injury he sustained while training the week after his win @ Qatar. Weeks two and three, he was doing his best just to make the rostrum. With Stoners issues on the D16 that season it was a two man race for most of the year. Between them Lorenzo was the better and still is. Pedrosa needs the bike to compensate for the measurable talent gap between them.

    Pressure from Lorenzo? Not nearly the issue a damaged is in motorcycling. Not even the leg injury neither…

    Lets not also forget, that during Lorenzo’s first title, Pedrosa was again surging at seasons end, only to befall injury as well.

  • Westward

    ** “damaged shoulder is in motorcycling”

  • sideswipe

    Oh lord, battle of the superfans again. Stoner was great to be sure but it’s 2013. He’s gone fishing. Put it to rest or go watch all his old races if you can’t move on. Lorenzo IS the man of the moment regardless of Rossi, Pedrosa, Marquez or the departed Stoner. He’s the champion. He’s in the peak form of his career. Appreciate it or root for the underdogs. I just want some good racing and it looks like the other 3 factory Honda/Yamaha riders will give it to him. Roll on the season!

  • Nerve

    @CTK : very nicely put.
    Not only does Rossi beat him in a squeeze, even ‘lil Dany did.
    Points don’t make you worldchampion. Ask any cameraman.

  • sideswipe

    as far Lorenzo’s championships and current form. I’ll take the opinions of those who matter most; his competition. None say he only won by default and all say he’s the standard of the moment. I’ll agree that maybe there’s little drama in his riding style or how he wins championships but that’s almost more to his credit. Even in person he looks like he’s not riding that hard but is out front. His championships haven’t been nailbiters because he doesn’t come from deficits after a few wins and a few spills. He nails the podium every time he finishes, usually one of the top two steps. Not dramatic but that scares the rivals as much or more than any single dominant race. I just hope Pedrosa finds his mojo before half way through the season and that VR46 and MM93 have the pace to make JL99 have to dogfight for his wins.

  • Westward

    @ Silly

    If you have nothing constructive to add to the discussion, please, be a reader. Save the insults for your account on crashnet. Surely you have a more poised retort in you…

  • Westward

    Nailing podiums, not really that hard when you are on one of four bikes that are capable. Cal making the rostrum without 99, 26, 93, or 46 crashing out. Now that would be something.

    When Rossi was on a Ducati the fantastic four became a trio. At least this year it looks to be foursome again, with Cal on the edge of success, the way Spies was when he started in the premiere class…

  • L2C

    “Your ambition outweighed your talent.”

    I think it’s fair to say that Stoner has come to eat those words. He made plenty of unforced errors himself that season, after being on the receiving end of Rossi’s mistake at Jerez 2011. But give the Aussie credit, he did win the title that year. The afterglow didn’t last very long though.

    1. The first race of 2012 season at Losail saw Stoner lose 1st position in the race and settle for 3rd on the podium because of arm-pump. Lorenzo, as fit as ever experienced no such problems and took 1st place on the podium. For his part, Pedrosa was quite happy to take 2nd ahead of his cranky teammate, who finished down under.

    2. Sachsenring saw Stoner make one of the dumbest mistakes of his career. On the last lap, he crashed out of the race while trying to chase down Pedrosa, who was in 1st position and headed for the finish line. Stoner risking 20 points to gain 5 more cost him dearly. Not only did he lose those 20 points and a 2nd place finish on the podium, he also lost his 2nd position in the standings to Pedrosa.

    3. At the following race at Mugello, Stoner finished in 8th position after running wide on lap 10; Dovizioso, his former Honda teammate from a year earlier, finished way ahead of him taking 3rd position on the podium.

    4. At Indy, another unforced error during qualifying sent the talented angler reeling in pain. Any remaining hopes he had of successfully defending his 2011 title were sunk when a high-side caused him to suffer serious injuries to his ankle.

    Stoner was great, sure. But he wasn’t great in 2012. I think he would have been mixing it up at the front with the other aliens this season, had he not retired, but after the dismal season he had last year, I wouldn’t have bet money on him being a serious title contender. Nothing about Stoner’s performance last season suggests that he would have had what it would take to dethrone Lorenzo this season. Lorenzo’s simple strategy of being fast and consistent was the perfect weapon against Stoner’s single-pronged tactic of being faster than everyone else. The second half of last season saw Pedrosa combine the strategies of both riders. He became both faster and more consistent than Stoner and Lorenzo. But for the debacle at Misano, and the mistake at Phillip Island, Lorenzo had no answer to Pedrosa’s newfound greatness.

    Frankly, I don’t see a problem with Lorenzo being called “the champion of attrition”. His strategy of being fast and consistent depends heavily on him be able to able to execute it as well as he possibly can. However, the strategy also rewards when his rivals make mistakes and are the victims of unfortunate circumstances that are outside their control – such as when Pedrosa’s team couldn’t remove the tire warmer from the front wheel of his Honda at Misano, and when Pedrosa was wiped out by Héctor Barberá moments later in the same race. Lorenzo’s strategy rewards plenty when he avoids letting things like that happen to him, but it also rewards when things like that happen to his rivals. And he knows it.

    Lorenzo has a well-deserved reputation for being a human-metronome when it comes to race pace, but he’s also like an accountant who cuts his losses wherever he can. He employs a single strategy that achieves both of those aims. It may make for a boring display, but it is highly effective and efficient.

    Rossi and Márquez have their work cut out for them, but I think Pedrosa has the edge in adaptability out of the four top riders. If Pedrosa can learn from either Rossi or Márquez, and successfully integrate the results into his own game plan, he will win the championship this year. He already knows how to beat Lorenzo, and the tracks in the second half of the season favor him and the RC213V. He just needs to make a few quick and necessary adjustments to Rossi and Márquez to become even stronger.

    Lorenzo, on the other hand, is risk adverse. Don’t expect him to make any drastic changes to his strategy. If anything, expect him to become more entrenched in it while trying to get a little more speed out of the corners. He’s not looking forward to banging fairings, so look for him to attempt avoiding getting in situations like that.

    Márquez is still learning how to ride a MotoGP bike. He’s already a threat to 2nd and 3rd place podium finishes, so look for him to be a contender for 1st place finishes by the time Laguna Seca and Indy roll around. I think it is entirely too soon to expect him to be challenging for the title. Especially with Rossi in the picture and Pedrosa getting back on his game.

    At this point, Rossi and his team are threatening to take this season’s championship crown. Period. Lorenzo has said several times himself, this season, that Rossi is the most complete rider on the grid. And he hasn’t just said it, he meant it. For his part, Rossi has already reached his target of securing a podium in the first race of the season. A target that he had set for himself six months ago in November of last year. He only got 2nd place at Qatar, but he achieved the maximum that was possible. How’s that for focus and determination? We can we expect of more podium finishes from Rossi this season. We can expect his team to make more improvements to the M1. We can expect his race pace to improve and become and more consistent, because let’s face it: If Lorenzo should get more drive out of the corners, so will Rossi. We can expect Rossi to improve his qualifying times, at least enough to consistently start on the front row or at the top of the second row. But what might Rossi’s mid-season target(s) be? We shall soon find out.

  • L2C

    I’d also like to point out, which I unfortunately forgot to add, that Stoner finished behind both Ducatis at Mugello last year. That’s right. He finished behind Rossi and Hayden (and even Crutchlow on the Tech 3 Yamaha) after running wide on turn 10. His words came right back and bit him in the ass.

    You have to love Stoner, he was a great athlete and competitor, but he was just a little bit too cranky and disrespectful to say those words to Rossi. Stoner showed zero sportsmanship. His words canceled out any handshakes and show of concern for Rossi’s shoulder. The tragedy is that he actually believed those words. He said as much in his interview with Matt Roberts before the start of the final race of the 2011 season at Valencia. Because of those words and resulting hubris, his character will always be questioned. His performance in 2012 certainly didn’t allow him get away with it.

  • Chaz Michael Michaels

    @L2C well said.

    I see a lot of exciting racing this season in my crystal ball. I see intrigue. But I don’t see a villian.

    For me, last year it was Stoner. He complained, he was cantankerous, and at about midseason he threw in the towel on motoGP.

    I often wonder where Marco Simoncelli would be by now. I saw Marco as the heir apparent for excitement, fun, and drama. The next Schwantz, a bodacious risk taker. I’m hoping Marquez will be the one who picks up where Marco left off. I see Marquez as a more talented, less interesting, mad as a hatter Schwantz/Marco-type.

    Marquez was careful and respectful in the first race. This weekend I’m betting the kid gloves come off.

    Things get interesting when Lorenzo gets pissed. Please welcome our new villian in training, Mr. Marquez.

  • CTK

    Well put guys. I just don’t see Lorenzo’s animal instinct coming out though. Hes fast, hes consistent, but I think if Rossi & Marquez can come close to him, he will lose out on diceyness. He just doesn’t seem to be a scrapper, and a dogfight would scramble his strategies of tire conservation and patience. Rossi damn near crashed out & ran out of fuel to get that win at Qatar… I don’t see Lorenzo doing that. Now Lorenzo might be smart enough to where he can anticipate pressure and adapt to it, but at the end of the day I think it will be his intelligence vs his challengers’ killer instincts. I just don’t know. All I know is it makes for great racing.

  • rt

    @L2c. stoner trying to beat dani at sachsenring wasn’t a wrong decision. he wasn’t some1 who is going to settle for second. one reason he crashed so much on the duc was because of this. Also his strategy is take the season race by race. lorenzo on the other hand is ok with finishing second since he thinks of championship. At indy 2012, i believe there were 2 other riders(hayden, spies)who highsided in the same corner as stoner. he has won on every track that he has raced so far. so you can’t count him out of title contention in any season..

  • L2C


    Maybe you can’t count out Stoner completely, but given the trajectory of his performance in 2012, you wouldn’t have dared bet the farm on him taking the title this year.

    And track conditions are track conditions.

    Lorenzo is smart and capable. That’s all there is to it. It’s not a matter of him being OK taking second, it’s the fact that he noticed the inconsistencies of his rivals and figured out a way to take advantage.

  • L2C

    Oops, I noticed a boo-boo. “Risk-averse,” not “risk adverse”.

    Hey, making sense and keeping it all together is kind of hard sometimes.

  • Westward

    You are giving him too much credit. I don’t think Lorenzo necessarily takes advantage of anything. He is merely the recipient of fortunate circumstances.

    Imagine if Rossi had not nearly crashed into Pedrosa on the first lap. Maybe instead of battling Marquez for second, he would have been battling Lorenzo for first at race end…

    Every pilot in motogp is technically good. But circumstances play a big roll in it.

    Take Cal and De Puniet for instance. They have both done some really good things on satellite bikes. But they didn’t have beginnings the likes of Lorenzo, Marquez, Pedrosa, or even Hayden. Who all got their start on factory machines.

    Realistically there are only four challengers for the title, and maybe six or seven for the rostrum. On the offset, Lorenzo and Pedrosa have the best situations for becoming the champion, and right now Lorenzo is looking the best.

    Rossi and Marquez are the wildcards, in the truest sense of the word. And they are coming from completely opposite spectrums, though they seem similar in essence…

  • L2C


    Lorenzo takes advantage because his strategy puts him into position to be able to. Assuming that Lorenzo does well in a race, he can only exploit the primary and secondary benefits of his strategy. He actually doesn’t have a choice in the matter. But even if he did, you know he would choose to take advantage.